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Brookins v. Superior Management Group, Inc.

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

October 29, 2013

CARLA BROOKINS, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated Plaintiff,
v.
SUPERIOR MANAGEMENT GROUP, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ERIC F. MELGREN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Compel Arbitration (Doc. 4) filed by Defendant Superior Management Group, Inc., in a wage-and-hour lawsuit asserted by former employee Carla Brookins. Specifically, Superior asks the Court to enforce an arbitration agreement that Brookins signed during the course of her employment. Superior has asked this Court to compel arbitration and to dismiss Brookins’ complaint or stay proceedings. For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendant’s Motion to Compel Arbitration and orders the proceedings stayed.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Carla Brookins worked for Superior in Overland Park, Kansas, as an hourly office employee. Superior sells and markets DirecTV digital television services in Kansas and Missouri. On May 22, 2012, Brookins signed two documents, one titled “General At-Will Employment Agreement” (“Employment Agreement”) and another titled “Mandatory Arbitration of All Claims Policy” (“Arbitration Policy”). Sean Gustavson signed the Employment Agreement as president of Superior, but only Brookins signed the Arbitration Policy.

ENTIRE AGREEMENT: This Agreement sets forth the entire agreement and understanding between Company and Employee and supersedes any prior negotiations, commitments and agreements, express or implied, whether oral or in writing, between Company and Employee with respect to the subject matter of this Agreement. Further, this Agreement may only be changed or modified by an agreement in writing with respect to the subject matter of this Agreement. Further, this Agreement may only be changed or modified by an agreement in writing signed by the President of Company.[1]

The Employment Agreement also contains provisions covering Brookins’ job description, pay, an acknowledgment that she is an at-will employee, and no-solicitation and no-compete clauses.

The Arbitration Policy contains the a provision binding both parties to arbitration:
Employer and Employee agree that all claims, disputes, controversies, or disagreements of any kind whatsoever arising out of or relating to any employment at-will agreement entered into between the parties, and/or Employee’s employment with Employer, and which may have occurred prior to or after entering into this arbitration agreement (other than claims Employee may have for workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance benefits), shall be submitted to binding arbitration. Employer and Employee agree that the requirement to arbitrate shall also apply to any claim that may arise out of or relate to Employee’s employment and which Employee may assert against Employer’s employees, officers, directors, agents, suppliers or service providers, in their capacity as such, whether an individual or entity.[2]

The Arbitration Policy also contains a clause that purports to waive both parties’ right to a jury trial and right to participate in a class action.

II. Legal Standard

Arbitration is a matter of contract, and a party must arbitrate only those disputes that they have agreed to submit to arbitration.[3] If a contract contains an arbitration provision, there is a presumption of arbitrability.[4] Whether the parties agreed to arbitrate a dispute is an issue for judicial determination unless the parties clearly and unmistakably provide otherwise.[5] Whether there is an enforceable arbitration agreement is a matter of state contract law to be decided by the court.[6] A defendant seeking to compel arbitration has the initial burden to show enough evidence of an enforceable agreement to arbitrate. If the defendant meets this burden, the plaintiff must show a genuine issue of material fact as to the validity of the agreement.[7] Doubts should be resolved in favor of arbitration.[8]

The Federal Arbitration Act provides that arbitration agreements are valid and enforceable subject to the same legal grounds for the revocation of any contract.[9] A federal district court may compel arbitration when it would have jurisdiction in the underlying dispute.[10]Finally, a court must stay litigation on a matter that the parties have agreed to arbitrate.[11]

III. Analysis

Brookins attacks the validity of the Arbitration Policy for two reasons. First, Brookins argues that there is no mutuality in the Arbitration Policy because no one from Superior signed it. Second, Brookins argues that the Employment Agreement does not provide for arbitration and purports to be the entire agreement between the parties, rendering the Arbitration Policy inadmissible parol evidence. Superior, on the other hand, argues that both documents are valid. As the ...


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